WRB—Sept. 17, 2022
September is the cruelest month, except for all the others.
The Managing Editors routinely judge books by their covers, and they invite you to join them.
To do list:
order a tote bag;
avail yourself of our world-famous classified ads, now stored on this page for non-paying readers to access, either by placing or responding to one;
And [In view of the fact that Chris reads 200 email newsletters a week to make this work, and you only read one.] consider,
There’s a new issue of First Things out, featuring a new posthumous Roger Scruton on “The Work of Mourning”: “Western civilization has dwelt upon loss and made it the principal theme of its art and literature. Scenes of mourning and sorrow abound in medieval painting and sculpture; our drama is rooted in tragedy and our lyric poetry takes the loss of love and the vanishing of its object as its principal theme.” There’s also Geoff Shullenberger on “The Rise of Femcel Noir,” which isn’t as amusing or informative as the femcel canon, at all. Both of these essays have Freud-themed ledes, but we promise we didn’t mean anything by it. [I did just find a nice copy of that old letter collection from Basic. —Chris]
In his column for Spike, Dean Kissick uses the new Nathan Fielder show on HBO as an excuse to meditate on the distance, or lack thereof, between art and life: “As things played out, of course, literature swerved down a different path completely, turning inward, like everything else, toward self-absorption and humdrum daily life. Autofiction (autobiographical fiction) would be the one path for the novel. It’s a way of remaking: it remakes the author’s life, their interior and exterior worlds, in a more direct manner than before. It’s a remake of yourself.” [The novel is an entirely dead discourse. The new discourse of bourgeois anxiety is the email newsletter. —Chris]
Relevant: Jennifer Wilson in the New York Times on student debt and the contemporary novel: “If plot is a sequence of events, then the student loan crisis is upending the scale at which story lines, real and fiction, can progress. In novels like Jo Hamya’s Three Rooms (2021), Lee Conell’s The Party Upstairs (2020) and Camille Perri’s The Assistants (2016), we can observe characters who have gone from ambition-driven to survival-minded.”
Jia Tolentino, famous for having a poem written about her, interviewed Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for The New Yorker.
Also in music journalism: for The Baffler, Milo Nesbitt writes about Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, in review of his newly released Lyrics (May): “Sadly, I’m disappointed. Ferry’s commentary takes up a mere four-and-a-half pages, and that’s allowing for the quite generous font size and spacing. He opens by quoting Charlie Parker, ‘music speaks louder than words,’ which seems a curiously telling way to open a book of lyrics, signaling the pointlessness of the whole enterprise by noting that lyrics merely read, rather than heard, can only ever be half understood. When discussing the lyrics themselves, he more or less defers to a disappointingly therapeutic view of songwriting which regards it as a subspecies of autobiography.” [One more on music, also in The Baffler: Adrian Nathan West writes about “chopped and screwed” sound in review of Lance Scott Walker’s recent biography of DJ Screw himself (DJ Screw: A Life in Slow Revolution, May): “A paradox of the Screw sound is its coarseness, a sign of its reliance on analog media just as the crispness of digital sound via CDs in the consumer market and DATs and digital mixing consoles in the studio were about to kill off older media.”]
For The New Republic, Colin Dickey reviews the Axios people’s writing advice (Smart Brevity, September) and is similarly unimpressed: “The book is designed less to be read than it is to be consumed: Like a fast-food value meal, it’s tightly engineered to deliver content in a digestible package for the on-the-go knowledge worker. Every chapter leads off with a word count and the number of minutes required to read it, white space complements bolded text and bullet points, and paragraphs rarely break two sentences. The headers that define Axios’s style (‘Be Smart,’ ‘Why It Matters,’ ‘Go Deeper,’ and so forth) abound. Em dashes—which, Emily Dickinson will tell you, are the punctuation marks of impatient breathlessness—dominate.”
Back in April, we mentioned an Upcoming book about how women use the internet (Girl Online: A User Manual, May). For The White Review, Rebecca Liu reviews: “The price of attention, and the means of getting it, for a girl online, is a trap. The path to your flourishing—delivering the confession—becomes indistinguishable from that of your diminishment. To point out that the girl online is caught in this confessional double bind is not to suggest that confession is the only way forward; there are others who do not chose this path, and thus escape both its soaring rewards and crushing punishments.”
For The Marginalia Review, Daniel Woolf reviews a Yale University Press coffee-table book about time (Marking Time: Objects, People, and their Lives, 1500–1800, 2020): “Most people before 1600 did not know their own date of birth. Even the institution of parish registers in the 1530s recorded not births or deaths but christenings and burials. Witnesses in court cases would give testimony that “around this date” or “in the time of King Edward” that judges and juries found perfectly acceptable. As Wrightson further points out, material objects were critical markers, and it is this period that first gives us church monuments with vital dates as opposed to simply recording that Sir Simon died in the 52nd year of his life, and often even less.”
National Book Award Longlists for Young People’s Literature, Translated Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction were released this week. [I did love The Employees, which I think I’ve mentioned before is one of my favorite short-and-sweet books this year. —Chris]
Image Journal is offering 25% off subscriptions through today.
Interintellect is hosting an online salon reading and discussing Louise Glück’s poem “The Wild Iris,” Wednesday, September 28, at 2 pm.
David Sedaris Oct 14 Kennedy Center. If you’re into it, you’re into it.
Quick hit book rec: Krithika Varagur for The Paris Review on Lives of the Saints.
There’s a new issue of Socrates on the Beach online. In other new-issue news:
Right-of-center: There are new issues of The New Atlantis [The Newest Atlantis. —Chris], The European Conservative, and The New Criterion, but we can’t link to anything from them until they get their content online. Otherwise: New issues of The Drift and Liberties and Astra, among others, are also incoming—[“the punctuation marks of impatient breathlessness” —Chris] stay tuned.
In a few weekends, the University of Dallas will host the fourth Catholic Imagination Conference. Is the Catholic imagination alive and well? [For whatever reason, this is the line that springs to mind when I hear about the Catholic imagination of such and such author: “The novel used to feed our search for meaning. It was the great secular transcendence. The Latin mass of language, character, occasional new truth. But our desperation has led us toward something larger and darker. So we turn to the news, which provides an unremitting mood of catastrophe. This is where we find emotional experience not available elsewhere. We don't need the novel. We don't even need catastrophes, necessarily. We only need the reports and predictions and warnings.” —Nic]
Fred Franzia, who revolutionized cheap wine for young people everywhere, is dead. RIP.
October 4 | Shoemaker
The Need To Be Whole: Patriotism and the History of Prejudice
by Wendell Berry
From the publisher: Following on his groundbreaking The Hidden Wound (1970), and The Unsettling of America (1977), Wendell Berry continues to explore the themes of racial division and the destruction of land-based communities. He finds our country fraught with destruction and disorder. Seeing a divided nation and our commonwealth threatened, Berry offers a conversation of hope with thoughts on a better way forward.
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